Hello VCK Women and Friends!
Yesterday afternoon I went to see the film Till, at the AMC Cinema in Hot Springs. When I walked up to the ticket taker, I said, “One for Till, please.” He looked at me in surprise and said, “Till, eh? Hmm.” I thought it somewhat strange but headed for screening room #5. There was no one in there. I had arrived early and sat through the barrage of ads and previews that precede the feature; still, no one else entered the room, which seats over 80 people. I looked around once more when the feature began, but I was alone.
I hope that many or most Americans know who Mamie Till Mobley is. Alas, I have lately met people who have never heard of her. If you do not know much about her or her only son, Emmett Louis Till, the film is still at the AMC. There is a showing every day at 3:30. I urge you to take a couple of hours out of your busy lives and meet the woman, who after suffering the most horrible loss anyone could imagine, took it public and exposed the murdered, unrecognizable body of her only beloved son to the world at large. Against the advice of her shocked family members, Mamie dressed her son in his favorite suit, put photos on the inside of the raised lid so that people could see what her Bo looked like in life, and offered the world a graphic view of the results of racial hatred. Little was done to disguise his horrific injuries or control the odor that emanated from the casket on that hot August day. Fifty thousand people filed past that casket, and it is said that nearly one in four people had extreme reactions after looking at that ruined face. It was an extraordinary gesture, but it proved to be the match that lit the smoldering awareness that became the Civil Rights Movement.
Emmett Till was little more than a child; he had just turned 14 years old, still more boy than man, but possessing the fearlessness and precociousness of an indulged only child who had grown up in the relative safety of Chicago. In August of 1955, he begged his mother to allow him to go to Mississippi with his cousins for a couple of weeks before school started back up. Mamie was reluctant, after all, things were different in the South; her child knew nothing of Jim Crow and the unspoken rules of conduct for Black people in an intolerant society. She carefully schooled Bo in the expected behaviors and warned him of the dangers of interactions with Whites, especially the women. Emmett was impatient; he wanted to go. He assured his mother that he would abide, and so, with an apprehensive heart, Mamie let her son get on the train. She never saw him alive again.
Because he allegedly whistled at a young white woman, her husband and his brother-in-law took him from his uncle’s home in the middle of the night. Emmett’s body was found a couple of days later in the Tallahatchie River, attached to a seventy-five-pound cotton gin fan by barbed wire wrapped around his neck. The men were tried by an all-white jury; unsurprisingly, they were found not guilty. They later admitted the deed to the world in a Look magazine interview, for which they were paid $4,000.00. Still, they walked free and remained so for the rest of their lives. Mamie became a teacher and devoted her life to education and activism. She never gave up on seeking justice for her child, but she refused to become a hater. She passed away in 2003. Her strength is unimaginable to me, and she is one of my personal heroes.
I am not alone in my admiration for this exemplary woman and mother. On January 10, 2022, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Emmett Louis Till and Mamie Till Mobley posthumously. On July 25, 2022, on what would have been Emmett’s 81st birthday, Senator Burr urged the passage of this bipartisan legislation that had been sent to the House a day after its introduction. As of this writing, it is still sitting there, awaiting the attention it so richly deserves.
Maybe we need to make some noise for Mamie and Emmett! Mamie Till Mobley is arguably one of the strongest and most influential women of the 20th or any other century. She is a role model for women everywhere; she is a role model for humanity. You can read Mamie’s story in her autobiographical book, Death of Innocence; available on Amazon, and, if you have the time, see Till.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my sisters in VCK!
With love and solidarity,
Dianne Rogers, VP, VCK